Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.


JetBlue Would ‘Love’ to Partner with Brightline Trains in Florida

3 weeks ago

JetBlue Airways President Joanna Geraghty said the airline would “love” to partner with passenger rail operator Brightline in Florida.

While she did not provide many details of what such a partnership could look like, it would likely include single-itinerary trips that combine both a JetBlue flight and Brightline train, and protections for travelers if either their flight or train is late. This could make the transfer experience between flights and trains smoother for many travelers. Many European airlines offer similar rail partnerships, including Air France with French rail operator SNCF and Lufthansa with German operator Deutsche Bahn.

JetBlue already offers similar joint itineraries, including protections for connections, with cruise operators and other partners through its Paisly travel products booking site.

Brightline train at Orlando Airport
A Brightline train at the Orlando Airport station. (Edward Russell)

Brightline began passenger rail service between Orlando and Miami in September. The trip takes roughly three-and-a-half-hours with four intermediate stops, including in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. The operator’s Orlando station is located at the airport adjacent to Terminal C where JetBlue flights arrive and depart.

Geraghty, who was speaking at the U.S. Travel Association’s Future of Travel Mobility conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, said JetBlue would also be interested in partnering with Brightline at the Fort Lauderdale airport. That, however, would require a new train station and likely airport facilities to connect the two; Brightline’s tracks pass the terminal complex at the Fort Lauderdale airport.

JetBlue has large bases in both Fort Lauderdale and Orlando.


JetBlue Pilots Back Spirit Airlines Merger

3 months ago

Pilots at JetBlue Airways are the latest to back the carrier’s proposed $3.8 billion merger with Spirit Airlines. The combination, if it wins antitrust approval, would create the fifth largest airline in the U.S.

The decision to support the merger was recently approved by the JetBlue chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), which represents pilots at the airline. ALPA also represents pilots at Spirit, however, the support is limited to the union’s JetBlue chapter at this time.

“The financial and market strength of the combined carrier represents an historic opportunity to protect and advance the careers of JetBlue pilots through the continued growth of the airline,” JetBlue ALPA Chapter President Captain Chris Kenney wrote in a motion viewed by Skift and approved by the union’s board on Tuesday.

(Ryan McLean/Flickr)

Whether the pilots backing will get the JetBlue-Spirit merger over the line is unclear. The U.S. Department of Justice has sued to block the deal on competitive grounds, and a trial is scheduled to begin in October. The regulator argues that the combination would eliminate a competitor from the market that drives airfares down, which could hurt consumers.

A recent accidental disclosure in a separate civil suit to block the merger provided evidence that supports the DOJ’s argument. Lawyers for the plaintiff, in an incorrectly redacted summary of JetBlue internal documents, said the airline plans to raise airfares 24-40% on Spirit routes. JetBlue has denied the disclosure, and said that it was an “inaccurate picture of the facts.”

The backing of ALPA’s JetBlue chapter comes the same week that the airline reached a deal to divest Spirit’s assets in Boston and Newark to Allegiant Air if the merger happens. The aim is to reduce antitrust concerns at the key airports. JetBlue will also work with the operator of the Fort Lauderdale airport to make five gates used by Spirit there available to Allegiant.

ALPA is the second labor group to back the deal after the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents cabin crew members at Spirit, opted to support it in February.


JetBlue Begins Winding Down American Airlines Alliance

5 months ago

JetBlue Airways and American Airlines will begin winding down their alliance in the northeast in a week’s time, or on July 21. That’s when the carriers will stop taking new reservations under the pact, which a federal judge ruled violated U.S. antitrust law in May.

Existing itineraries that include American and JetBlue flights for travel after July 21 will be honored, but new bookings will not be made, New York-based JetBlue said Friday. Travelers can also accrue loyalty program points after that date as long as their either American AAdvantage or JetBlue TrueBlue number is on their reservation prior to the cutoff date.

“We are still committed to minimizing disruption to existing travel plans and continuing to deliver great value and our award-winning product and service to our customers,” JetBlue Vice President of the Northeast Alliance Dave Fintzen said.

An American aircraft flies past JetBlue and United aircraft as it lands at Washington’s Reagan National Airport. (REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

The strategy, to stop taking new reservations but honor existing ones, is similar to the way American and US Airways integrated their reservations systems in 2014. The process is known as a “drain down,” where the number of existing bookings gradually drain out of the system as no new reservations are taken. The method avoided any major integration snafu when American and US Airways merged.

However, numerous details of how American and JetBlue end their alliance remain unknown. These include how JetBlue returns slots at the New York-area airports that it leased from American, how the airlines recover divested slots at Washington’s Reagan National airport, and potential gate relocations at certain airports.

JetBlue announced plans to end the alliance earlier in July. It cited a desire to focus on its proposed merger with Spirit Airlines for the decision. American, on the other hand, still intends to appeal U.S. District Court Judge Leo Sorokin’s decision. Sorokin has yet to set a deadline for the airlines to unwind their alliance, but has indicated that a request by the airlines for 120 days was “too long.”

The U.S. Justice Department has challenged JetBlue’s merger with Spirit, as it did the alliance. That case is scheduled to go to trial in October. Wall Street analysts generally see JetBlue’s decision to end its alliance with American as a positive for the proposed merger, though on the margin given the DOJ’s case against the deal.


JetBlue to End American Alliance to Focus on Spirit Merger Approval

5 months ago

JetBlue Airways will not fight to save its alliance with American Airlines in the northeastern U.S., following a judge’s ruling that the pact violated U.S. antitrust law and must be unwound. Instead, JetBlue will shift its focus to securing approval for its proposed merger with Spirit Airlines.

“Despite our deep conviction in the procompetitive benefits of the NEA, after much consideration, JetBlue has made the difficult decision not to appeal the court’s determination that the NEA cannot continue,” the New York-based airline said Wednesday. The NEA refers to the name of the partnership, the Northeast Alliance.

American, in a separate statement Wednesday, said that it maintains plans to appeal the ruling but respects JetBlue’s decision. It will work with the airline to “seamlessly” end the alliance.

American and JetBlue will end their alliance in the coming months. (Glenn Beltz/Flickr)

American and JetBlue will unwind their partnership over the coming months. The pact is wide ranging including a codeshare partnership in Boston and New York, slot leases at busy New York LaGuardia and JFK airports, a loyalty tie up, and revenue sharing mechanism on joint routes. It even included the divestment of select slots at Washington’s Reagan National airport, which Southwest Airlines recently acquired.

The timeline suggests that the busy summer travel season, which typically ends after the U.S. Labor Day holiday in early September, will be unaffected by JetBlue’s decision to end the alliance. However, the judge in the case could alter the timeline at a hearing scheduled for July 26.

JetBlue still has a fight ahead. Ending the American alliance is not a guaranteed path to the U.S. Justice Department changing its view and approving its merger with Spirit. The regulator has previously indicated that it has concerns about the merger even without the JetBlue-American partnership, and many viewed the alliance as a key bargaining chip in JetBlue’s negotiations with the DOJ. The regulator sued to block the combination in March; a court date is set for October.

“The DOJ should reconsider and support our plan to bring a national low-fare competitor to the Big Four,” JetBlue said Wednesday. “We are open to working with the DOJ to address any remaining concerns they have.”

The JetBlue-Spirit merger would create the fifth largest airline in the U.S. ahead of Alaska Airlines. The combination has the support of the state of Florida, as well as the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA.


JetBlue Embraces Blue in Its First Major Livery Update in Two Decades

6 months ago

As if JetBlue Airways didn’t have enough on its plate, the airline has unveiled a branding refresh with a new all-blue livery for its fleet.

The new livery drops the standard white aircraft fuselage that JetBlue has used since its launch in 2000 for an all-blue one. The carrier also enlarged its name on the side of planes, and added its logo to the bottom for easy spotting from the ground. JetBlue will continue to use a myriad of different tail designs across its fleet.

JetBlue’s new look on an Airbus A321neo. (JetBlue)

“Liveries have always been a part of our identity,” JetBlue Head of Marketing and Loyalty Jayne O’Brien said. “The new livery helps us stand out among a sky of legacy carriers, and is a stunning reflection of our role as a disruptor that uniquely combines lower fares and great service.”

One does have to question the timing of JetBlue’s livery announcement. The airline just lost an antitrust case with the U.S. Justice Department and may, pending a possible appeal, need to end its lucrative partnership with American Airlines. The Justice Department has also sued to block its proposed merger with Spirit Airlines, which JetBlue executives have said is critical to its future competitiveness. And the airline continues to face challenges with elevated costs — making the investment in a new look now questionable.

And, to paraphrase former American CEO Doug Parker after he orchestrated a merger with US Airways in 2013, travelers don’t buy tickets based on the exterior look of the plane.

JetBlue plans to update the look of its fleet as aircraft come in for regular paint refreshes. That process can take years. The first plane sporting the livery, an Airbus A321neo, will enter passenger service at New York JFK on June 15.


American and JetBlue Win More Time to Unwind Alliance

6 months ago

American Airlines and JetBlue Airways have won a little more time to either appeal or unwind their partnership in the northeastern U.S. after it was found in violation of antitrust law last month.

U.S. District Court Judge Leo Sorokin said Monday that he would take both the Justice Department and airlines’ respective requests on the timeline to end the alliance into account in a yet-to-be-issued final judgement. He described the Justice Department’s request that the original 30 day period — or until June 20 — be honored as “too short,” and the airlines’ request for up to 120 days to end their codeshare agreement as “too long.”

American and JetBlue must end their alliance in the northeast, which covers the Boston and New York markets, 21 days after the final judgement, Sorokin ordered.

The airlines argued on June 9 that, without a delay, unwinding the alliance could be “disruptive to consumers.” One reason they highlighted were JetBlue’s technology systems that they claim are incapable of honoring all aspects of previously-booked tickets if the agreement ended this month. More time would also provide “sufficient time to resolve any forthcoming motions to stay the judgment pending appeal.”

American and JetBlue planes takeoff from LAX. (Glenn Beltz/Flickr)

The U.S. Justice Department disagreed. “The court found that the NEA [northeast alliance] considered as a whole, not merely specific aspects of it, was anticompetitive and illegal; allowing portions of the NEA to remain in place indefinitely would provide incomplete relief,” the regulator said in its own filing.

American CEO Robert Isom has said they intend to appeal the ruling, while JetBlue Airways CEO Robin Hayes said earlier in June that they would make a decision on next steps “soon.”

Updated with details from Sorokin’s ruling.


California, New Jersey Join Suit to Block JetBlue-Spirit Merger

8 months ago

The U.S. Department of Justice is gathering support for its suit to block the $3.8 billion merger of JetBlue Airways and Spirit Airlines. The attorney generals of California, Maryland, New Jersey, and North Carolina signed on to the antitrust regulator’s lawsuit on Friday, the DOJ said in a statement.

Massachusetts, New York, and Washington, D.C., were already parties in the suit that the DOJ filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts on March 7. Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Doha Mekki said Friday that the additional state support would help the regulator “protect the benefits of competition in the airline industry on behalf of their residents.”

A JetBlue plane taxis past the control tower at San Juan airport
A JetBlue plane at the airport in San Juan.

The merger of JetBlue and Spirit would create the fifth largest U.S. airline by passenger numbers, with a roughly 8 percent share of the domestic market.

Not every state opposes the combination. The attorney general of Florida backed the merger after securing a commitment from JetBlue, which would acquire Spirit, to add flights in the state, including to underserved destinations in Florida, like capital Tallahassee, and to Europe.

An out-of-court settlement between the DOJ and airlines remains a possibility. However, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has said that the combined JetBlue-Spirit “still violates” antitrust law even if the former were to give up what is arguable its strongest bargaining chip, its alliance with American Airlines.

The DOJ’s suit is scheduled to go to trial in a Massachusetts courtroom on October 16.


JetBlue to Begin Paris Flights in June

9 months ago

JetBlue Airways flights to Paris will takeoff at the end of June, with the city of lights joining London as the second European destination on the carrier’s map.

The New York-based airline will initially offer one daily flight to Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport from New York JFK beginning June 29, JetBlue said Tuesday. It also plans a nonstop flight to Paris from Boston at a later date.

The new Paris service is part of JetBlue’s push to disrupt premium travel between the U.S. and Europe with its popular Mint business class. The airline targets cost-conscious business travelers and premium leisure flyers with a lower price point for the lie-flat seats than legacy competitors, like British Airways and Delta Air Lines. JetBlue executives have repeatedly described its debut to London in August 2021 as successful.

Introductory Mint fares between New York and Paris are $1,899 one way, according to JetBlue. Delta, for one, is asking at least $3,382 one-way for a business class seat on the same route on June 29, the day JetBlue flights begin.

JetBlue’s European expansion has not gone as smoothly as executives have hoped. The airline has struggled to acquire slots at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, which has prompted a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation. Aircraft delivery delays at Airbus have slowed the launch of new flights. And, after JetBlue first unveiled plans to serve London in 2019, the pandemic disrupted transatlantic travel and delayed the start of flights.


Largest Flight Attendants Union Backs JetBlue-Spirit Merger

10 months ago

The largest flight attendants union, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, is backing the proposed $3.8 billion merger of JetBlue Airways and Spirit Airlines as part of a new agreement with the latter carrier.

“The JetBlue-Spirit merger adds competition to the airline industry that creates more power for workers, along with choice and comfort that benefits consumers,” AFA President Sara Nelson said Tuesday. “We urge regulators to work diligently to ensure the financial merger closing occurs in the near term so that flight attendants, other workers, and consumers can access the benefits of the merger as soon as possible.”

AFA represents the roughly 5,600 flight attendants at Spirit. JetBlue’s more than 4,800 flight attendants are represented by the Transport Workers Union, or TWU.

A Spirit Airlines flight attendant
(Spirit Airlines)

Labor support for the merger is not a guarantee that the U.S. Department of Justice, which handles antitrust matters, will approve the deal. Reports indicate that the regulator intends to block the JetBlue-Spirit combination, and JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes said Tuesday that the carrier was ready “to go to court” if it had too to get the deal done.

However, labor backing of a merger can make the integration process go more smoothly once the deal closes.

AFA’s support for the merger came as part of a new two-year accord with Spirit. The tentative agreement, which flight attendants still must vote on, also includes pay raises of 10-27 percent upon ratification.


JetBlue Claims Discrimination in Unsuccessful Effort to Fly to Amsterdam

10 months ago

JetBlue Airways alleges that the Netherlands has violated the terms of the open-skies agreement between the U.S. and European Union after repeatedly denying the airline’s requests to serve Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.

Under the agreement, airlines can operate an unlimited number of flights between the U.S. and EU as long as they can secure the necessary airport landing and takeoff rights — known as “slots” — on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. JetBlue, which first launched flights to Europe in 2021, said it has made at least three applications for slots at Schiphol since September, all of which have been denied, to begin two daily flights to Amsterdam — one from Boston and one from New York’s JFK airport — this summer.

“The Dutch government’s conduct violates the [open-skies] agreement and constitutes an ‘unjustifiable or unreasonable discriminatory or anticompetitive practice’ and ‘imposes an unjustifiable or unreasonable restriction’ on JetBlue’s access to U.S.-AMS markets,” JetBlue said in a complaint to the U.S. Department of Transportation on Tuesday.

The complaint is a highly unusual method to gain international airport access, and one used only as a last resort by an airline.

JetBlue wants to fly an Airbus A321LR, like the one pictured, to Amsterdam. (Adam Moreira/Wikimedia)

JetBlue claimed that its requests, which included seeking unused slots previously used by Aeroflot and bankrupt Flybe, were denied due to the Dutch government’s controversial policy to reduce noise and carbon emissions at Schiphol. This effort would reduce the maximum number of flights allowed at the airport to 440,000 annually from 500,000 currently. The policy has also raised concerns at KLM.

Schiphol also implemented passenger caps this past summer due to understaffing, particularly of security functions. Those caps will end at the end of March.

The DOT will likely begin evaluating JetBlue’s complaint, first determining if it has merit before investigating whether the Netherlands have violated the open-skies agreement. It is unlikely to result in new JetBlue flights to Amsterdam this summer, but could facilitate the airline gaining access to Schiphol in the coming years.




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